Law in Contemporary Society
As a law student, it can be daunting to navigate the legal profession when faced with the harsh realities of life at a big law firm that include long work weeks, feeling like a replaceable cog in a machine, and the concept of being on call at all times. As a student that has never had a full-time job and attended law school straight out of undergrad, it is especially daunting to wonder how one can keep up pace in such an environment upon graduation. Years of education do not prepare students for entering the profession.

The Current State of Burnout and the Law: From the knowledge I have gathered about high turn-over rates for most of the top firms, in my head, I have decided to comfort myself with the idea that I will practice law for a handful of years and pivot on to a more fulfilling career path. This seems like the usual plan of action amongst my peers as well, except more individuals lean towards going for in-house positions or smaller firms after a couple years in big law. In Bloomberg Law’s Attorney Workload and Hours survey, respondents reported a record high of feeling burnout 52% of the time. The startling statistics quantifies the harsh realities of life as an attorney, or more broadly, in a demanding profession that is client serving. Aside from the rewards associated with the job, that include high salary compensation that can yield a lavish lifestyle and positive career prospects., it is evident that burnout and stress are commonly associated with the profession. However, burnout appears to be the least discussed aspect of the job within law school and the general recruiting process from a perspective of a current student entering the field. This leaves uncertainty and confusion for future big law attorneys who wonder how long one can last in working at the pinnacle of prestige in the profession that they are spending years studying for. It seems to have created a culture where some students may seem fearful of reaching the heights in the legal field. Yet, despite all the horror stories that are heard, it remains a taboo to ask an attorney about how many hours they work per week or how they balance everything without seeming like an unfit candidate. The real questions seem to go unanswered.

My Non-Negotiables: As my full-time career approaches, I have begun to reflect upon my potential career and aspects of life that I value. I believe this would prevent burnout and enable me to have a long, lengthy professional career. I think it is important to have a set of non-negotiations for myself to ensure that I am always living the life that I want. An optional hybrid model is one that I value as it allows for an opportunity to balance family time with professional development at work. As an incoming young associate, I acknowledge how critical it is to get in-person training from associates, however, the trend of certain law firms reverting back to mandatory four-day in person work weeks would limit flexibility for me at other stages in my career. Furthermore, it is rare that a one-size fits all model would work at firms, which is why I value the choice. I also have a particular preference for a slightly smaller firm, after having spent a summer as an associate at a mid-size firm in Washington D.C. Personally, it allows me to develop deeper connections with my colleagues which makes showing up in the office feel more worthwhile as opposed to having a large associate class where I am constantly meeting people and making surface level connections. I also aspire to have work that I am committed to as a result of it relating to an area of interest. My first year of law school allowed me to explore different potential paths within the law on a surface level. However, I am excited to take advantage of more externship opportunities during the next two years to hone in on different subject matters. At the moment, I have an interest in pursuing work within the media and entertainment space as a result of my background as a musician and movie-gooer. I am aware that interests change and am open to exploring other pathways during my summers at firms. Whether I end up, I hope it was well-thought out from a place of passion in opposed to carelessly falling into a career path. Personally, those are some steps I can take to ensure that I am not a part of the 52% of attorneys that reported being burnt out all the time. As an individual who has not yet worked a full-time job and is oblivious to some of the realities and demands of adulthood, I hope that I am able to take my non-negotiables into account as I search for full-time employment throughout my career. Whether it remains within the law or outside the law, I am committed to avoiding burnout and maintaining my passion and curiosity for the world.


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r3 - 07 Jun 2023 - 19:19:25 - AlexNnabue
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